Fermanagh 1-15 Louth 2-8
The Fermanagh hurlers are celebrating for the second weekend in a row. Seven days after winning the Lory Meagher Cup, they earned the right to step up to the higher grade with a four points win over Louth in a Nicky Rackard Cup promotion/relegation play-off at Kingspan Breffni Park.
Goalkeeper Mark Curry was the Erne hero, pulling off a string of brilliant saves to send the Wee County Louth down to the Meagher Cup.
Fermanagh were quickly into their stride with early scores from John Duffy and Thomas Cleary, and when Louth did threaten, they found defenders David Teague and Matthew Teague in defiant form.
Andrew Mackin did break through the Erne defence to have a crack at goal, but his effort was well saved by Mark Curry.
Kevin McGarry’s long range effort made it 0-4 to no score by the 15th minute, and the Wee County was struggling to muster any offensive threat.
Sean Connelly’s opening point was cancelled out by another McGarry special, but ‘keeper Curry had to come to his side’s rescue again, saving superbly from Gavin Kane, who got on the end of Mackin’s cross to go for what looked a certain goal from close range.
Louth did hit three on the spin, with Gerard Smith’s free narrowing the gap to a single point on 25 minutes, and they were now much tighter at the back, with Jason Condon showing leadership in organising the defensive effort.
However, the Ulster side turned on the power in the final 14 minutes of the half, hitting eight points in a row to seize control.
Brothers Ciaran and Sean Corrigan, along with Daniel Teague and wing back Karl Kehoem, were all on target, and McGarry managed just a point from a penalty after Sean Corrigan was fouled as he headed for goal.
Another goal chance was averted when Mark Curry saved from Teague, and Fermanagh went in at the break with a commanding 0-13 to 0-5 lead, but Gerard Smyth netted a Louth penalty seven minutes into the second half, and they were denied a second goal by another magnificent Curry save, this time denying Shane Callan.
Fermanagh survived a spell of intense pressure to break away for Teague to weave his way in for a 47th minute goal, and now they led by seven.
Smyth was keeping the Leinster side in touch with accurate striking from frees, but many other efforts sailed harmlessly wide.
They continued to press and were rewarded with a second goal, blasted to the net by Smyth from a 20 metre free in the 63rd minute.
Now just four points adrift, they were yet again thwarted by the brilliant Curry, who kept out another Callan screamer, and Fermanagh held out to win by four.
Fermanagh: M Curry, D Teague, M Teague, F Bannon, K Kehoe (0-1), M Slevin, B Duffy, J Duffy (0-2, 2f), D McGarry (0-1), T Cleary (0-1), K McGarry (0-3, 0-1 pen), A Breslin, S Corrigan (0-2), D Teague (1-3, 0-1f), C Corrigan (0-2).
Subs: S Curran for Cleary (43), JP McGarry for Breslin (61), C Rice for C Corrigan (69)
Louth: A Carter, E McKeown, B Carter, R McKeown, N Cafferkey, J Condon, C Ryan, S Callan (0-1), D O’Hanrahan, L Dwan, G Smyth (2-5, 1-5f, 1-0 pen), A Mackin, G Kane, S Connelly (0-1), P Lynch (0-1).
Subs: N Stanley for Dwan (9), C Kerrigan for McKeown (34), C O’Reilly for Lynch (55), D Yore for Cafferkey (60)
Referee: O Elliot (Antrim).